NAFTA Highway Bill May Help State

Article excerpt

"Assuming the House goes along with the Senate, this means that I-35 will be designated as the official road to carry trade and commerce between Canada, the United States and Mexico." _ Sen. Keith Leftwich,

D-Oklahoma City By Bill May

Journal Record Staff Reporter

It looks more and more like Interstate 35 is about to become the first high priority corridor designated as part of the National Highway System since the North American Free Trade Agreement became effective Jan. 1, 1994.

A "significant first step" was taken last week when the U.S. Senate passed the highway system bill, according to state Sen. Keith Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City.

The bill passed Thursday is a prelude to reauthorization of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991. As passed by the Senate, the bill contains language classifying the length of I-35 as a high priority corridor.

It now goes to the House for consideration.

"This is the vital first step for I-35 to become an international superhighway, which will be good not only for Oklahoma's economy but for the national economy as well," Leftwich said. "Assuming the House goes along with the Senate, this means that I-35 will be designated as the official road to carry trade and commerce between Canada, the United States and Mexico.

"Congress is reacting to reality. Already hundreds of companies and thousands of businessmen and women have seen the value of I-35 and are using it for their trade.

"There's a lot more traffic already on that road, and more is coming. The question is, do we accept this as a liability or do we turn it into an asset?

"This is a great victory for supporters of the I-35 Corridor Coalition."

The Senate action Thursday adds great momentum to the movement to get the official trade corridor designation on I-35 which runs from Laredo, Texas, to Duluth, Minn., said David Dean, consultant to the coalition.

"Assuming the House now passes the bill, it means that I-35 will be the first major road added to the priority list since NAFTA was signed," Dean said. …